SLDN board member says sexual orientation not a factor in Forest Hill race; win would make him 2nd openly gay official in Tarrant County
FOREST HILL —Dave Guy-Gainer, an Air Force veteran who’s best known in the LGBT community for his work to repeal "don’t ask, don’t tell," is vying to become the second openly gay elected official in Tarrant County’s history.
Guy-Gainer, 61, is running for the Place 3 seat on the Forest Hill city council in the May 8 election. The town is southeast of downtown Fort Worth, in Tarrant County.
"I’ve always tried to give back to my community," Gainer said.
This is his first run for public office. But, he said, he has been attending city council meetings regularly since moving to the town with his partner, David Guy-Gainer, two years ago.
Guy-Gainer said he would like to help the city do more long-term financial planning in place of what he calls the "Whack-A-Mole" planning that only addresses immediate problems.
"It’s a small town without a vision," he said.
Guy-Gainer said the town is plagued by recall elections and has had three city managers in five years. An effort to oust the current mayor for abuse of power may come up for a vote later this year, he said.
Guy-Gainer said he favors protecting the police department from being disbanded. A charter amendment on the ballot would prevent the city from eliminating its police force without voter approval.
In the LGBT community, Guy-Gainer is known for his work to end "don’t ask, don’t tell." He was national vice president of American Veterans for Equal Rights and currently serves on the board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the group that provides legal services to those impacted by DADT, and lobbies Congress on the issue.
But he said that in Forest Hill he is known for his involvement with the city council and that his sexual orientation has not been an issue in the campaign in this predominantly African-American town.
"We moved in as an out gay couple," he said, adding that he and his partner have encountered "not one bit of prejudice. They’re better people than that."
His opponents in the council race have not made an issue of his sexual orientation either.
"If you live your life in a dignified fashion, they’ll respect you," he said.
There are two other candidates in the race: incumbent Gerald Joubert, who has held the Place 3 seat since 2003, and Rodney Wright.
The race is nonpartisan, but in estimating his chances, Guy-Gainer noted that the town is "very blue."
Forest Hill has a population of about 13,000. Of that number, 7,000 are registered voters and fewer than 1,000 participate in municipal elections. Guy-Gainer said his strategy is just to get enough supporters out to the polls.
To gain name recognition, he has a number of large well-placed yard signs around town. And he’s knocking on doors and talking to as many neighbors as possible.
While the council election is about the town’s financial planning, Guy-Gainer returned to discussion of his other passion, repealing "don’t ask don’t tell."
He said he knew as teen that he was gay, but he thought, "I’ll join the Air Force. That’ll fix me. I got married, had a daughter and a granddaughter."
After a short stint in combat communications, he said, "I quickly retreated to a computer room."
He described his life in the military as "very closeted" because gays and lesbians were dishonorably discharged before DADT. In 1990, he retired from the military with the highest enlisted rank of chief master sergeant — and then came out.
Guy-Gainer said he is optimistic about repeal of the current ban this year.
"If we don’t see this thing killed this year," Gainer said, "I’m going to implode. And I’m having too much fun to implode."
He points to the absurdity of the way DADT is administered. After leaving the service, he was working at Fort Sam Houston. He and his partner went to San Francisco to be married during the short window when Mayor Gavin Newsom was issuing marriage licenses.
When they returned to San Antonio, co-workers, many in uniform, had a party for them on the base.
Guy-Gainer also said the call to study the effect of opening the military to gays and lesbians disingenuous and a stalling tactic. He notes that Britain did it overnight with no ill effecst.
"For the most part, we don’t share rooms like the old Gomer Pyle gang barracks," he said. "It’s insulting to professionals in the military to suggest we can’t share space. Because when ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is lifted, it doesn’t mean people will go crazy."
Gainer said that without civil disobedience, nothing would get done. But he questioned some of the recent tactics used by people like Lt. Dan Choi, who’s twice been arrested for chaining himself to the White House Fence.
"Dan’s a friend," he said. "But it’s not what I would have done — in uniform while on active duty. It sticks in my craw."
Gainer said there’s been movement on DADT thinks the protests may have been ill-timed.
"We’re going to see this to the end," he said, adding that he continues to work on repealing the law just as hard as he’s been campaigning for office.
But he said his involvement in DADT has not come up in the council race.
"If you become involved in the community, people get to know you, and they’re OK with you," he said.
Joel Burns became the first openly gay person elected in Tarrant County when he ran for Fort Worth City council in 2007. Guy-Gainer would be the second.
Early voting in the council election continues through next week.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 30, 2010.